Right Place. Right Time

“Oh wow, how lucky were you?” is often a question that I am asked when I find myself in the incredibly fortunate position of capturing a photograph of a stunning scene.

“Lucky?” I ask.

Well there is definitely an element of luck that plays a part in photographing some truly outstanding views but there’s often a tremendous amount of effort involved in being able to capture on camera the images that I do. Firstly there’s the knowledge gained from visiting the same location time after time after time, dozens of times over a near ten year period, at all different times of the year and at all times of the day, from the ridiculously early 4am sunrises in summer to the sub zero conditions of the harshest winters.

Then there’s the research. OMG the bloody research. When I first started out with my trusty Konica 5D DSLR way back in February 2007, I would drive all over the Lake District, not knowing where I would end up or knowing what I would photograph. I spent about two years trying to learn all about the Lakes but unsuccessfully. Why? Because I failed to do my research. These days it seems that I spend more time researching locations on my PC than in the field with the camera BUT these days, my time in the field is far more productive as a result of doing the research. I want the time that I have outdoors to matter and to give myself the very best possible opportunities to capture those magical moments on camera.

You see I learnt all about the importance of research during the three years I spent training to become a General Nurse (2008-2011). I understood rather quickly that I could not ‘wing’ my way through my training, that peoples lives depended on me knowing what I needed to know and that should I fail, then the consequences could be fatal. I did not want that on my conscience so I read, researched and understood what was needed in order to do my job safety and to the best of my ability (I would work 40 hour weeks six months in every year in hospital as part of my ‘on the job’ training). I quit six weeks from the end of my three year Diploma course in January 2012 and as a result, never qualified. WHY I hear you ask? Well my desire to become a full time landscape photographer was so great that I did not want to have a Plan B (in being a qualified nurse) to bail me out should I not succeed in becoming a full time landscape photographer. All or nothing is the mantra I live by. Some people back then thought I was mad, some still do, but I have never been happier than I am right now. I made the right decision for sure.

Weather
There are a lot of website out there trying to predict the weather, some with different levels of success. I am sure you’ll have your favourite but for me, it’s the good old Met Office that generally wins the day. The BBC thought announced last year that after 93 years of using the Met Office, they are changing their weather forecast provider. No longer will the BBC be using the weather predicted by the Met Office and by the end of 2016 a new provider will be in place.

If however I am heading up into the hills and mountains, I’ll tend to use XC Weather instead as they provide a much more indepth account of the weather on the peaks.

Positioning of the Sun
I use The Photographer’s Ephemeris to assist me in the positioning of the sun at any time of the day in any location worldwide. It is an invaluable website when wanting to know which part of the landscape is likely to be lit and what time of the day to visit. The Photographers Ephemeris. It is free to use on the PC but costs around £5.00 on a mobile phone.

Water Levels of River and Lakes 
The water level in the various parts of the Lake District is very important to me as it dictates where I can take my clients in order to get the right shot. If a water level is too low, that will rule out several locations, especially during the summer months and knowing the height of the water allows me to maximise the opportunity to have me (and when running workshops / 1+-2-1 tuition days) and my clients capture those magical shots. So I use the government’s Flood Information Service website. This free site gives you the water levels in England and some parts of Wales and it is invaluable. Take a look.

Tide Times
Most of the tide time websites only give you the tide times for the week ahead whereas I require them for the year, especially when organising coastal workshops around the country. I found Tides4fishing to be an excellent website because not only does it give you tide times up until the end of the year but it also gives you lots of additional information too.

So there you go, just a few of the websites that I use to help me be in the right place at the right time. I hope you found it useful. Let me know on Facebook if you did.

7 thoughts on “Right Place. Right Time”

  1. I love the passion you have for your dream… the love of photography! My Father told me years and years ago that a person’s chosen profession should be their greatest love, because then you will succeed at it.
    Melvin, clearly you are succeeding because your love for your work is so well researched, so beautifully detailed and your dedication is visibly evident.
    Right Place. Right Time is ‘you’… well done! I love your passion for life and your love of photography… thank you. 🙂

  2. Sooo agree with you Melvin… I totally love the research and for me its a big part of my photography sprees. Love the image and all you said. Looking forward do more x

  3. Good for you Melvin for following your dreams and working so hard to make it work for you. Thank you for all the information about your research process. I have to confess that other than the weather and tide times I have never used any of the other tools. I shall give them a try. M xx

  4. Too right. I’m also discovering books which describe good locations for landscape photography as well as going on workshops (!!thanks!!). For apps PE is invaluable – also try photopills on ipad/iphone. I’ve recently got into astrophotography – so for that add Stellarium (free app on PC), lightpollutionmap.info and google sky map ( or any equivalent, though this one is probably the best and its free!). Always know where Polaris is and where to find the Milky Way. Only problems here are unrelIable cloud cover forecasts and some cold and lonely late nights.

  5. One can’t achieve anything worthwhile without tons of work, which your results are a testament to. Yes, and imagination, and heart and guts and sheer love of everything you’re trying to accomplish. Thank you VERY MUCH for sharing. I have rarely felt so inspired.

  6. Hi Melvin,
    Completely agree with you about the research. I used Photographers Ephemeris recently to get a handle on where the setting sun would be at Killintringan Lighthouse, near Portpatrick in Dumfries and Galloway, and turned up at the right spot, in plenty of time, to capture a glorious sunset. Your work is exceptional – you definitely made the right decision all those years ago.
    Kind regards,
    Steve Lawson
    Glasgow

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